Workers in the South living in the North must be supported - Ruairí Ó Murchú TD
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Ruairí Ó Murchú challenged the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty about how Northern workers, some of whom were initially paid the Pandemic Unemployment Payment before it was stopped because they had a Northern address, were being accommodated by the State.
He also welcomed the announcement that women on maternity leave would be able to avail of the scheme, ‘after the government finally bowed to pressure from mothers’.
Teachta Ó Murchú said;
"There were anomalies in the system where some of the Northern workers affected had only ever worked and paid PRSI in the South and were not entitled to welfare payments in the South.
"I contacted the Pandemic Unemployment Payments helpline shortly after it was set up to ask about Northern workers’ entitlements and was told they could avail of the scheme, only to be informed later that evening, or the next day, that something had changed in the Department (of Social Protection) and they were not going to get it."
The Sinn Féin TD highlighted a businesswoman who runs a small service business in Dundalk and was not able to avail of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, or the Pandemic Unemployment, or welfare payments in the North.
"I asked Minister Doherty about a European directive known as EC 883/2014 65a which seemed to say that where welfare payments were not available to a frontier worker in their State of residence, such as the businesswoman, the State in which they work should pay unemployment benefits.
"I also asked what contact the government has had with the European Commission about the issue and what legal advice, if any, they had received that told them people who worked in the South but lived in the North would not be entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
:The Taoiseach had promised that he 'wouldn’t leave Northern people behind ever again', but this is what seems to be happening.
"In response, Minister Doherty said the Pandemic Unemployment Scheme is based on unemployment payments law and the department applied the regulations to the scheme, including EU rules about frontier workers. She added that any change would require new legislation and with the Seanad not sitting at the moment, this was not possible."